Commentary on Term Building Official

Originally published by the following source: SBC MagazineApril 29, 2019
by SBCA Staff with contributions by SBCA Professional Engineers


What is the definition of building official found in the building code, and what does this definition mean? The place to begin to address key definitions, which may be understood differently through interpretation, is from source documents where adoption into law occurs. The 2018 International Building Codes (IBC) provides the definition of Building Official as follows:

[A] BUILDING OFFICIAL. The officer or other designated authority charged with the administration and enforcement of this code, or a duly authorized representative.

The procedures for “administration” are defined in Chapter 1 of the building code and are further defined as follows:

Section 104 Duties and Powers of Building Official

[A] 104.1 General

The building official is hereby authorized and directed to enforce the provisions of this code. The building official shall have the authority to render interpretations of this code and to adopt policies and procedures in order to clarify the application of its provisions. Such interpretations, policies and procedures shall be in compliance with the intent and purpose of this code. Such policies and procedures shall not have the effect of waiving requirements specifically provided for in this code.

[A] 105.3.1 Action on application

The building official shall examine or cause to be examined applications for permits and amendments thereto within a reasonable time after filing. If the application or the construction documents do not conform to the requirements of pertinent laws, the building official shall reject such application in writing, stating the reasons therefor. If the building official is satisfied that the proposed work conforms to the requirements of this code and laws and ordinances applicable thereto, the building official shall issue a permit therefor as soon as practicable.

The following commentary is intended to amplify the foregoing language:

A building official’s role is to administer and enforce the words as used   in each section of the code, in the context of the specific code compliance application. This is challenging because there may be multiple sections of the code that often need to be applied to have proper context.

The building official shall examine all aspects of the construction project for compliance with the specific charging language and scope of the section of the code being implemented.

If anything within the construction project is non-conforming with respect to the requirements of the pertinent laws, or clarifications provided through interpretation or policy, the building official shall reject non-conformances in writing, providing the reasons the code sections are non-compliant.

Implied is that the written rejection will provide:

  1. Specific evidence of non-conformance, and
  2. Enough information to be able to understand the non-conformance based on the evidence provided, and
  3. A clear and easy-to-understand pathway to cure non-compliance.

An overarching concept herein is the fact that not everything needed to enforce the code is going to be written in the code. Hence, alternatives will need to be provided and an evaluation made regarding whether or not various products and services meet the intent of the code. The typical policy and procedure for alternative approval is as follows:

  1. registered design professional (RDP) or approved source provide an accepted engineering analysis or research report and signs and certifies their belief that the issue being dealt with conforms to the code.
  2. research report, also known as a technical evaluation and is provided by an ANSI ISO/IEC 17065 Accredited Product Certification Body and is often generically called an “ICC Report.”

Fighting to Keep the Law Free

UpCodes is using AI to make compliance with the law easier and cheaper. This will result in safer and more affordable housing. Open access to the law is an important part of reaching that goal. SBCA supports UpCodes in its defense of Americans' constitutional right to freely read their own laws and make this easy through innovation.

For additional information and commentary on the building code, please read the following articles: